Our Favorite Fast Food Discoveries Of 2023

All the intriguing things we learned about KFC, Panda Express, Subway, Popeyes, and Shaquille O’Neal.

The subject of fast food is sprawling and fascinating, and this year brought us a vast treasure trove of discoveries. As much as we think we know every McDonald's menu and Taco Bell promotion like the back of our hand, there were still so many things we never learned until 2023—even though some of these fast food secrets had been hiding in plain sight for years on end. Let's look back at the year in burgers and fries to recount the cool things we uncovered.

We found a way to get really cheap burritos at Taco Bell

We love tinkering around with Taco Bell's online ordering system, and in June 2023, we discovered a hidden glitch on the website. If you followed a very specific series of inputs on the desktop ordering page (not the mobile app), you could find a way to lower the price of a bean burrito by a significant amount.

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The loophole was eventually fixed, so no longer can we get 50% off bean burritos, but this just goes to prove that monkeying around with all those buttons can sometimes yield enticing discounts. Read all about it here.

We learned of the existence of Popeyes Cajun Sparkle

Despite years of Popeyes experience, we only just learned about Cajun Sprinkle, a lesser known seasoning packet that makes Popeyes' food sing. We'd never seen nor heard of it before 2023, but Popeyes recommends sprinkling this dry seasoning on your chicken for a little extra pop. Next time you go, try asking for a packet to experience the flavor for yourself. Read all about it here.

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It turns out White Castle has great desserts

When it comes to White Castle, it's hard to think beyond its diminutive little sliders, but there are other categories of its menu past the savory stuff. The chain offers dessert in the form of various treats on a stick. We tried them all, and we learned which one is the best way to cap off your meal of tiny, oniony, steam-grilled burgers. Read all about the desserts here.

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American fast food chains get way weirder overseas

Limited-time fast food promotions can get pretty interesting here in the United States, but that's nothing compared to what international locations are up to. The menu experimentation abroad has always been wild to hear about, but in 2023, things really ramped up: Pizza Hut Hong Kong served snake meat on a pizza this year, and Burger King Thailand served a sandwich that was nothing but a brick of 20 slices of processed cheese. Oh, and that Subway Cadbury Creme Egg melt sandwich sounded terrible, but we're still a little jealous it was never even offered here.

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Did you know Shaq has his own chicken chain?

Did you know that Shaquille O'Neal, the 7'1" former basketball player who loves Papa Johns, has his own fast food chicken chain? No, it's not called Chicken Shaq, it's called Big Chicken, and it sells fried chicken sandwiches. The chain has in fact been around for a while (it was founded in 2018), but it continues to grow; currently it has 18 locations. Apparently Shaq loves a nice spicy poultry sandwich like the rest of us. Read about it here.

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Sonic sells our favorite soft serve ice cream

Fast food soft serve isn't a subject most people think about too deeply, which is precisely why we thought we'd look deeper into it. We ranked the soft serve vanilla cones from Sonic, Burger King, McDonald's, and Dairy Queen, and the overall winner in our taste test was an unexpected upset—especially because it wasn't Dairy Queen. Read all about it here.

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One Panda Express dish is damn close to Chinese-American takeout

We all know and love Panda Express for what it is: a very loose fast food interpretation of Chinese-American cuisine. But this year, we decided to examine Panda's menu a little more closely by comparing certain beloved dishes directly to their Chinese takeout counterparts. We discovered that one particular Panda Express dish is pretty much identical to the takeout restaurant version, and no, it's not the orange chicken. Read all about it here.

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We visited KFC’s headquarters to learn how new products are developed

Field trips are always fun, and they're even more fun when they involve fast food. We took a trip to KFC's corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky earlier this year to see how the company develops new menu items from the ground up. There we got to taste some things that were yet to be released at the time, like the new KFC Nuggets and the modernized version of the Double Down that came out earlier this year for a limited time. Learn all about KFC's test kitchen here.

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We settled a debate about the drive-thru

We've all wondered at one point or another what would happen if you tried to order from a drive-thru on foot. As in, walk right up to the window, grab the food, and walk away. (Not just us, right?) So we looked into whether or not this is officially allowed, and what happens when a customer actually tries to do it. Here's what we learned.

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Subway is more committed to its cookies than we thought

Everyone knows Subway for its footlong sandwiches, but it's about to start offering the country some ridiculous-looking footlong cookies. That's a pretty funny idea—if you're going to be known for one thing, you might as well run with it all the way through the dessert menu. Personally, we don't think Crumbl has too much to worry about... yet. But even the discovery that Subway is thinking in this mode was a pleasant surprise to us. Read more about it here.

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